Visitors to Cork beauty spots urged to take rubbish home

Bins at public amenities encourage people to leave litter behind, County Council chief says

Tim Lucey: ‘We have 958 [bins] in public spaces across the county but we could double or treble that figure and we would still have people littering.’ File photograph: iStock

Tim Lucey: ‘We have 958 [bins] in public spaces across the county but we could double or treble that figure and we would still have people littering.’ File photograph: iStock


Visitors to beaches and other beauty spots in Cork have been urged to bring their litter home by Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey, who said he would prefer to have no public litter bins in such places.

Mr Lucey said Cork County Council provides almost 1,000 litter bins at locations such as beaches, nature parks and walking trails but he would much prefer if people took their rubbish home.

“Each and every one of us is going to be using outdoor spaces more and more over the summer with more people on staycations and we need to have a conversation about how we use such public spaces.

“Cork is a fantastic county and we want people to look at our county and ask how do we prepare for a day out and how do we want to leave our beaches and our parks and trails for the next visitor.”

Mr Lucey said that people should plan to bring their rubbish home with them in a waste bag rather than piling up rubbish, such as chip cartons, pizza boxes and bottles, and leaving them at litter bins.

“This isn’t about the number of bins that we provide – we have 958 in public spaces across the county but we could double or treble that figure and we would still have people littering,” he said.

“No matter how often we empty our bins, there will be people who leave their rubbish beside the bin and they are doing that without thinking, when they should be taking their rubbish home with them.”

Changing habits

Mr Lucey said that he had recently commented at a Cork County Council meeting that his preference would be to do away with public litter bins entirely as a means of changing people’s habits.

“I commented in the Council chamber that if I had my way, I would have no bins around the county as I feel it only encourages people to leave litter and I stand over that as it raised awareness straight away.

“We need to think about our public spaces. If you go down to the Killarney National Park, for example, you will find very few bins. Visitors there plan their day to take their rubbish home with them.”

According to Cork County Council, it has some 80 staff working daily on litter and rubbish collection duties and it spends €250,000 a month on emptying its public litter bins across the county.

Mr Lucey said almost 1,000 tonnes of litter are collected from public bins and by volunteer tidy town groups across Co Cork every year, which could be reduced if people took home their rubbish.

“Everyone who is getting a takeaway, for example – they are driving or cycling or walking to wherever they eat it. If they can bring it there, they can surely bring their rubbish home with them as well.

“Litter bins on streets and in public places like beach car parks or nature parks are for small items like sweet wrappers or cigarette butts, not mounds of chip cartons or fast food wrappings.”

‘Be proud’

Mr Lucey was speaking as Cork County Council launched a new campaign in anticipation of people making more than four million visits to Cork’s 59 beaches and 130 walking and cycling trails this summer.

Mayor of Co Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, urged people to support the “Be proud, be sound and help keep Co Cork clean” campaign and have consideration for others using public amenities.

“After a tough year, people are itching to visit beaches, coastal walks, towns and villages around Cork and when it comes to litter, it is not just about putting out more bins and hoping people will use them.

“We are asking people to treat their county like they would their own home. Plan your day and discuss what waste you are likely to generate and if necessary, please bring that waste home with you.”

Meanwhile, Mr Lucey has called on businesses, particularly those serving takeaway food, to take greater responsibility by cleaning up within the vicinity of their premises in towns and villages.

“Tidy Towns and our staff do phenomenal work. It is about personal behaviour and it is about getting businesses to work with us on the psychological message of getting people to take their rubbish home.

“If you are dining indoors, your waste is dealt with by the owner of that business and similarly if you are formally dining outdoors, your waste will be dealt with by the business,” he said

“We want takeaways to work but there is a big onus on them to take higher responsibility and we will work closely with them to bring about changes in people’s behaviour. We are all in this together.”